Favorite Songs of 2017 – Part 2

(Important Note: Songs listed in chronological order of album release date; only songs on albums released in 2017 were eligible – no tracks from “Run the Jewels 3” unfortunately)


Part 1


The Mountain Goats – “Rain in Soho” (“Goths”)

The Mountain Goats sure love concepts. The band’s previous release built on the fascination of growing old centered around pro wrestling. This time around, The Mountain Goats went a more music-centric direction with their inspiration. No better example of the album’s title, “Goths”, can be heard early thanks to the opening track. Utilizing a haunting, almost operatic effect, John Danielle sings alongside some fantastic drumming, piano playing, and The Nashville Symphony Chorus about a legendary Goth club that once existed in London and the lost era that, most likely, is romanticized by some who never experienced it firsthand.



Jay-Z – “Kill Jay Z” (“4:44”)

“Hov” puts himself on the cross – it’s the only way to describe the opening track of Jay-Z’s “4:44” album. Sean Carter unveils the reality of his life married to one of the baddest women in the world by explaining how he let the person he’s portrayed for the majority of his adult life dictate his actions while wed to Beyonce; almost ruining his marriage and his family while envisioning his ex’s and daughter’s futures without him. Jay-Z addresses his ego problems, ruining professional and business relationships. He even mentions the time he shot his own brother as a youth. Hearing a vulnerable Jay-Z is almost unreal enough, but to hear him admit his wrongs, cast down his public persona in an effort to beg for forgiveness with the hope that he can become the man worthy of his loved ones is the hardest, manliest Jay-Z put on figurative & literal wax.



Bone Thugs Ft Layzie Bone, Flesh n Bone & Eric Bellinger – “Ruthless” (“New Waves”)

With only two-fifths of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony entering the studio to record again – Krayzie Bone and Bizzy Bone – delivered their first album under the BTH banner while dropping the Harmony in title only. Though a majority of the album utilizes a sound closer to what you’d hear from a Future or Rae Sremmurd album with the Bones rhyming over the beats, the second-to-last track is another groovy tune that feels like it was made twenty years ago to honor so many people who’ve passed that popularized rap during a time when BTH was just getting its footing including Easy E. With some gentle guitar plucking backing the soulful voice of Eric Bellinger; Bizzy, Krayzie, Layzie Bone & Flesh n Bone spit bars to deliver a call-to-arms for all individuals profiting off the genre of music their forefathers helped build show some genuine respect (and don’t you dare disrespect them when the Bones are around).



Shaman’s Harvest – “Tusk and Bone” (“Red Hands Black Deeds”)

It had been five years since Shaman’s Harvest found itself under the most prominent spotlight the decade-plus-year-old band had experienced since forming when it’s fifth LP dropped, “Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns”. Instead of chasing the success they found with their previous album “Shine” by attempting to craft another song like “Dragonfly”, Shaman’s Harvest went out of its way to put as much soul, spirit, and country-fied grit in “Broken Guns” partially due to the fact lead singer Nathan Hunt began his lengthy battle with throat cancer during the recording process. Between treatment, recording & touring, Hunt pressed on with a band looking to reach another musical zenith. They achieved that goal with album five and decided to take a different path with what was to come. Connecting with producer Keith Armstrong, the quintet was able to take an analog approach to what would become “Red Hands Black Deeds”. While there are plenty of heavy riffs from new lead guitarist Derek Shipp and drummer Adam Zemanek (as well as returning members Josh Hamler on rhythm guitar and Matt Fisher on bass), embracing the scaled-back nature of analog in general embodies the album’s most powerful song, “Tusk and Bone”. Once again genuine sincerity envelops Hunt’s voice as he acoustically guides the listener on a simple journey of a time long since gone (a potential glimpse into the not-too-distant future where many romance about the days before a detrimental socio-economic shift) for one of, if not the most awe-inspiring tunes in the band’s catalogue.



Nitty Scott – “For Sarah Baartman” (“Creature!”)

If there’s one way to describe Nitty Scott (MC) as an artist it’s this: evolving. The sound Scott has provided on her most recent projects including a teaming up with Joell Ortiz & Bodega Bamz as “No Panty” is always so much different than what came before it while still being fascinating and, most importantly, lyrically strong. Scott’s “Creature!” LP doesn’t change the narrative of her career, but expands on the person she’s growing into and accepting while, hopefully, the world understands her as well. But like so many other women how have been objectified not only because of their looks, but also before of their heritage, Nitty doesn’t hold back in explaining how the treatment of Sarah Baartman has trickled down to the point of poisoning society in the way it views women of color. An Afro-Boriqua, Nitty casts down the supposed complements that are nothing more than vocalized shackles of a bygone era that still influences the culture today – hoping to become a voice that initiates change.



Living Colour – “Always Wrong” (“Shade”)

After eight long years of waiting, the legendary rock quartet known as Living Colour finally released its sixth LP with the promise of delivering a more bluesy sound to honor the genre that gave rock its original identity and spawned so many once-in-a-generation musician across multiple generations. Like so many albums and songs coming off the dreadful reality that is modern America continuing a trend that’s been unfortunately going on longer than the band has existed including gun violence (The Notorious B.I.G. cover of “Who Shot Ya”), media obsession (“Program”) and biased news broadcasting (“Two Sides” – my second favorite track on the album). But nothing exhibits the versatility of Living Colour while delivering a stone groove better than “Always Wrong”. Corey Glover’s vocals are displayed in full form as his range goes from airy to hardcore and back again in correlation to the tonal shifts created instrumentally by Vernon Reid on guitar (who has a blistering pair of sections to shine midway and near the end of the song), Doug Wimbish meticulously playing the bass, and Will Calhoun opening & closing the track in grand fashion on drums. This is another gem from a group of living legends never scared to address the harsh realities of those who have to make the toughest choices in life or those choices are made for them without a care in the world.



Rapsody ft. Amber Navran – “Jesus Coming” (“Laila’s Wisdom”)

2017 was kind of a coming-out party for the mentality that there’s only room for one female MC being celebrated at the same time. Rapsody is the type of rapper that has flown under the radar for the last few years while consistently putting out quality albums and mixtapes. But nothing in her discography compares to “Laila’s Wisdom” as Rapsody provides one of her most accessible offerings without losing the core of her rhyming talents to tell this impressive, first-hand experience of being a black woman in America. For all the good in life such as finding that potential next love interest living not far from her (“Knock on My Door”) or simply having a girls’ night out (“Sassy”) there is some bad about her (and many other black women) reality including standout track “Black & Ugly”. When it feels the album is going to end on a lighter note, “Jesus Coming” arrives to close out the album in the most heartbreaking way possible. Another song featuring another haunting sampling usage – in this case Otis Redding’s “Time to Go Home” – “Jesus Coming” tells a story of death from three different perspectives including a nonsensical argument turning fatal for several people with Rapsody pulling a Kendrick Lamar by changing her voice to sound like a little girl staring at the sun alongside her mother. No song in 2017 stopped me in my tracks and left me hitting back to replay and comprehend what I had just heard (a definitive classic – that’s what I was hearing) as much as this one.



Cunninlynguists – “Violet (The Upper Room)” (“Rose Azura Njano”)

Originally released on the “The Azura” EP, this closing track of the aforementioned short offering gets thrown a couple tracks higher on the actual LP named after the two EPs the musicians offered prior to the LP’s release (the “The Rose ” and the “The Azura ” EPs) and what many thought was supposed to be the finale in the trilogy, the “Njano EP”. Instead of just giving fans another three songs, the trio of underrated lyricists with two of those rappers being masterful producers as well crafted another masterpiece telling a weaving tale of a lone black girl seeing the black experience presented through music thanks to her affliction/ability, chromesthesia (a type of synesthesia where sounds are automatically associated with color – thus evoking an emotion associated with said color). After the first three songs deal with the struggles of living in modern-day America as a black person witnessing police brutality and years of injustices, “Violet” opens the door to a more somber, yet introspective view of life & death in America and how Rose sees it all. The song is lucid in delivery, harsh in its critiques, and understandable in its inability to find a sure answer. This song is only one of the many reasons why “Rose Azura Njano” is my favorite album of 2017.



Big K.R.I.T. ft. Keyon Harrold – “Drinking Sessions” (“4Eva is a Mighty Long Time”)

The would-be heir to the Southern Throne of Hip-Hop has been a victim of not only his geography, but also being signed to a label that was meant to help grow the Big K.R.I.T. brand while the musician delivered the same quality of music heard on his mixtapes. Going back to his independent roots, the Meridian, Mississippi native took a huge risk by giving the world a double-disc offering featuring K.R.I.T. going out of his way to work with producers out of his comfort zone with his own hand also helping provide to the experience such as this track. With twenty-two tracks (including interludes) split into two discs, the listener is taken on a journey through the mind of the rapper many have grown to know & love and the person who was born, raised, left & came back to his home state. Through all his troubles, rise to fame, the eventual disappointment signing with Def Jam, and simply experiencing the woes of life, Justin Scott has suffered from alcoholism – something he powerfully discusses late in the second disc. Dropping the braggadocio that makes the first disc a thumper and the “character” responsible for getting everything turnt is Scott expressing his mental & emotional woes, life & death, his faith and self-medication (…meditation). It’s a hard-hitting, yet somber track that personifies the two sides of such a talented musician.


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